While local businesses don’t have the same resources as bigger ones do, that’s no reason they can’t compete for the same customers, at least at the local level. Still, it certainly hasn’t been easy. Who would want to shop for groceries at local mini-mart when there’s a Wal-Mart just a quick drive away? However, there are quite a few local businesses that continue to thrive despite the existence of larger competitors. What is there secret? Read on to find out.
Setting Objectives and Specific Goals
The first thing you need is a set of objectives. This can vary depending on your priorities and the kind of business you own, but it should be somewhere in the realm of acquiring more customers, generating leads, branding, lowering sales resistance, and other things that a business typically needs to achieve. Of course, you also need more specific goals, targets and KPIs (key performance indicators). According to Vedrantomic on SEOBook.com:
Objectives are too broad to work with. They exist on a higher level and are something company executives/leadership need to set. This is why we need specific goals, KPIs and targets. Without getting into too many details, goals could be defined as specific strategies geared towards accomplishing an objective. For example, if your objective is to ‘grow your law firm,’ a good goal derived from that would be to ‘generate client inquiries’. Another one would be to use the website to get client referrals.
Once you have your general objectives and specific goals set, you need to measure them in the form of KPIs or key performance indicators. These are simply metrics that help quantify what you’ve achieved towards your goals. For example, if your goal is to acquire more customers, the KPI would be the number of customers you’ve acquired.
Contribute to the Local Paper
One way to quickly build your reputation is to approach a local publication and contribute some helpful articles once in a while. Richard Bivans of BNC-IMarketing.com says:
The smaller and more local publications can be a little more welcoming and approachable than the New York Times (…go figure). So, try writing a small column for a local newspaper or magazine about a topic related to your business, and then just include a link within that article about how your business can help. This can contribute to an eye-popping level of success in local search engine ranking.
For example, if you own a plumbing business, you can contribute a few DIY maintenance tips. You can include a URL along with a phone number and suggest that they get in touch with you for any of the tougher jobs.
Create a Downloadable Resource
Let’s say you’ve got yourself in the local papers. That’s great, but what happens when they visit your site? Will they get any value from it? One of the best ways to strengthen customer loyalty is to make them feel like they’re getting something of value from you. This can be in the form of a free PDF, discount coupon, or other resource. They shouldn’t even have to necessarily buy a product or service from you to get that value. According to LeadsNearby.com:
The original tried and tested content marketing platform is the eBook. For years, marketers have been giving away content in the form of eBooks, guides and whitepapers to build their email lists and promote their message, brand and products.
Show Off Your 5 Star Reviews
As a local business, it should be much easier to establish trust among your customers since you might know quite a few of them personally. Therefore, it should be easier for you to amass 5-star reviews on your site. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review as this will help you market your brand to your target audience. This is called reputation marketing. According to Richard of BNC-IMarketing.com:
…REPUTATION MARKETING helps to build the reputation of your business by developing positive, 5 STAR online reviews. Then we market that 5 STAR reputation so you get more customers!
Keep in mind that reputation marketing shouldn’t be confused with reputation management, which tries to turn around negative reviews and other feedback into a better reputation.
Engage With Your Target Audience Whenever Possible
If there’s any advantage over big businesses you should exploit, it’s your capability to personally respond to any query, comment, message or whatever you have from your target audience. As large as some of these big businesses can be, they won’t have the capacity to reply to each and every one of their comments on their Facebook page or messages in their email. You on the other hand can concentrate on a single locale and engage with your customers more easily, allowing you to build authentic relationships with both potential and existing customers.
However, you need to be a bit careful when you communicate through social media and the comments on your site. According to Valerie Buckingham on Mashable.com:
If you want your brand’s social media efforts to come across as authentic, you need to know what you stand for and what’s meaningful to you. In other words, authentic social communication requires you to be honest about what your brand represents, what you have to offer, where your weaknesses are, and what’s really important to your audience.
She goes on to say that:
Given the speed of social media, your message can go from trusted to falling out of favor in the blink of an eye, and it could all hinge on what you say next. That’s why the number one thing you can do to ensure authenticity and trust when connecting with fans, customers, and partners is to think about what your message means to them.
Whenever a potential or existing customer posts a comment, query or the like, make sure you take time to respond to it as soon as possible. Don’t let days go by before responding as many people have short internet attention spans. And don’t be afraid to reply to the tough questions or apologize for screw-ups. You may not be able to turn a disgruntled customer’s opinion around, but you’ll certainly gain a bit of respect where there would have been none if you didn’t reply to it.